The Good And The Bad Of 2012: Annual Core Shop Sales Report

Words & Charts: Cary Allington

It’s nice to end a year with a report showing an increase in same-store sales growth compared to the previous year. Sales were up 2.2% for all categories tracked, with apparel, footwear, and accessories all showing gains. Hardgood sales were barely down and wetsuit sales were down less than 5%. Unfortunately, the sales growth mostly took place during the first half of the year, with the second half showing sales declines overall and in most major categories.

December is the highest volume month of the year for the average store on the ActionWatch panel, which means that sales growth during the month affects the annual growth numbers more than any other month. So it was particularly unfortunate that December's same-store sales decline was the largest of the year at -3.7%, compared to the same month in 2011.

Footwear and hardgoods experienced the biggest sales declines in December. Footwear sales were down for all subcategories except for women's closed-toe shoes, which posted only a small sales increase. Surf hardgood sales were  up slightly, but not enough to counteract the big decline in skate hardgoods.

Apparel sales were up in December with most apparel classes experiencing positive growth. Women's sweaters, pants, shorts, dresses and skirts had particularly strong gains in December. Accessory sales growth was higher than that of any other major category in December, with sunglasses, hats, and socks all showing gains. December is by far the biggest sales month of the year for socks, and December’s sales beat the previous year’s numbers by nearly 50%.

While 2012 got off to a great start, it was disheartening to watch the second half lose momentum. However, the declines were nothing like we saw during the depths of the recession, and here’s hoping we see a reverse as we move into 2013.


Sales were up for most major categories for the full year of 2012 compared to the full year of 2011. 

Sales growth in 2012 took place largely during the first half of the year.

The ActionWatch Retail Panel includes 250 surf/skate independent specialty shops across the U.S. and is growing rapidly as more retailers join the free program. Retailers who participate get free access to a set of 50 reports updated each month. Retailers interested in joining the ActionWatch Retail Panel can get more information at

All ActionWatch reports are made from the aggregated data of the participating retailers, which are located throughout the U.S. and vary in size from 750-square-foot shops to stores over 10,000 square feet. Data is collected monthly from electronic reports submitted by participating retailers.